Sliders: The Slippery Slide of Things2

Mitte Not too long ago we put together a portable slider at our local kitesurfing spot and hey did it cause a buzz. For some reason, be it a childhood fantasy or an adult madness, there seems to be this deep hidden craziness in many of us to want to slide up, down or on things and the evidence is in seeing it like we did. Once you have understood the idea and found your feet, you will catch yourself dreaming about it then contemplating your next move and attack. It is addictive and it’s exciting.

There is a whole new vibe being brought into kitesurfing where sliders are involved. Kitesurfing due to its nature is generally a solo sport across most of the disciplines. You are out there on your own, pushing your personal limits and only every now and then do you glance over your shoulder to see what your mates are up to. Sliding is different. There will probably only be one slider at your local and that one slider to start with was more than likely the product of much group discussion. So already there was a team effort even before you got wet. Then it is all the brainstorming and the group work party actually building the thing, a true riot itself. Setting it up also requires the hands of a few good people, so once again a time to interact. But that’s not where it ends, it is really only where it all begins.

Only one rider can hit the slider at a time so the rest sit and watch in anticipation of their turn as they circulate around. It is in this queuing for the action that a whole lot of chatting and cheering, oohing and aahing goes down. Here you will find the place of beauty, where creativity is set free and the soul finds a new expression as each kitesurfer is challenged. It is this interaction that has been the core of the boarding industry for decades and now it’s finding a path into kitesurfing. While surfing holds claim to the history of board riding it must be skate boarding that be given a lot of credit for the board riding culture that has filtered back into surfing, wakeboarding, snowboarding, cable and any other form that it takes. Open any skate mag and you will find that probably 50% of the mag is dedicated to the good old “slider” which in skate terms will be either a hand rail on some sketchy stairs, a pavement curb, park or mall bench or any other item worthy of the task.

Sliding has been around for a long time in many board sports and it would appear that it is going mainstream in kitesurfing or as close as it can get. In my opinion it is what we need in the sport, especially in the South African context. It brings spectator value back into the sport in a neat focused package that is oh so easy to market to potential sponsors. Slider Jams with the beat pumping and the juices flowing are possibly the media draw card that we have been waiting for, which will hopefully bring all the kitesurfing disciplines together again at events. With the advent of the bungee tow and motorized tow they can even work when the wind fails to pitch.

So what makes a good slider? From a safety perspective the box slider is the way to go as there is close to no chance of getting pulled through the thing from a misguided upwind approach or slipping under it, not that it happens too easily. Is the box slider what riders want? The answer would be yes for every first timer but a no for the more advanced and adventurous. The mutter on the inter-web is that box sliders detract from the core culture of sliding or “grinding” as it is sometimes referred to in skating, where the metal trucks (wheel axels) eat away at the obstacle of choice. To further explain – One of the most amazing things with the sliding discipline is the photos and videos that we will see coming out of it. The subjected kitesurfer is easy to shoot as the action all happens within a confined and “controlled” space. Multiple angles are available to the photographer by taking only a few steps in any direction. You also don’t necessarily need photo trained riders to get the money shot as you would need in freestyle and surf kiting. Skaters have been at it for years and some photographers have made it their bread and butter line.

Herein lies the big quandary of what slider is a good slider. A skate photo shoot would involve a scout of the town to find the elements that would make a good photo. Now you answer the question. How good a photo can you get out of a man made box slider? Once you got your skills down, and that will take a while on the very same box slider or something similar like a simple rail. You may then want to follow in the footsteps of the skaters and start looking for alternatives. Maybe an old bluegum telephone pole or tree that has fallen over, a boat jetty or even the boat when the owners eye is turned, a fence that won’t kill you, a wall, some windsurfer’s masts or any other obstacle or item that you can get in, near to, or across dry land then back into the water. An open mind is the key here. These are going to be the shots that the magazines will be featuring. Sliders that have an element of natural danger are the ones that are true to the core of sliding and the ones that will give you credit amongst your peers.

So the challenge goes out, and other than attacking hazardous obstacles, the quickest way to get beaten on a slider is to try doing it with your fins in. We have a sign board that we put up on the approach to our slider that clearly states “use at your own risk and nofins.” It is amazing how many people can’t read at speed, but it does make for good footage. Riding without fins is a challenge on its own and in a way it separates potential slippers from the dedicated grinders. Once you start riding your freestyle board without fins (preferably use an old board as it is going to get serious battle scars) you will find some new moves coming to you even in the flat water. Channeled boards look like they will be the way forward, with or without smaller recessed fins. Increased rocker is possibly a good thing for moves like the nosepress, it also helps to protect the fins if you using them and may make some grabs easier. Bindings seem to be the rage but practically they are an extra effort. Wakeskates, or now referred to as kiteskates (flatter rocker etc.) on the other hand are making a big impact. They are strapless, bindingless boards being used to do skate tricks on flat water, on sliders, off waves, wherever creativity will take you. Originally from the wakeboard scene they are most definitely a complement to the kiting outfit. Landing a kickflip off the end of your slider on a wakeskate will rocket you into stardom for sure!

The possibilities are endless and only our minds limit where this slippery avenue will take us. If you have not had a slip-n-slide in a while then it comes highly recommended. Get together with your crew and start knocking one together.